Tuesday, September 23, 2014

the little things

Okay, so here I am, studying abroad in Italy.... that is kind of a big thing!

But to my dismay and to no disbelief... things simply do not work out the way you picture them in your mind. Sound familiar anyone?

Cliche as it seems, when imperfect things happen you just have to shake it off, smile and look for the little things.

I've always been the type who has to talk out every problem in order to find a solution. Thank goodness God gave me a mother who is willing to listen to me vent and then to help me solve the problem. However, being located 8 hours ahead of anyone I can call up and talk things out with, I have had to resort to a less stressful method of just shaking things off and seeking positivity in every situation.

I have found this method has helped me become a much more grateful person. And let's be honest, the more grateful you are, the happier you can be.

Here's an example from last night:

I'll just start out by saying grocery shopping is never a pleasant experience here. I just attempted to write all the common things that go wrong and the list got too long. So just take my word for it... if you go grocery shopping you might as well just be buying a one way ticket to struggle city. Anyway, I got up to the front of the line, paid the guy with my silly little welfare token the school made us buy, start bagging my groceries and voila! My bag rips (bags aren't free here btw.. you have to pay for them every time) and my food spills all over the floor. So I just took a deep breath and picked it up as quickly as I could and moved to the side to wait for my roommates to finish shopping while cradling my spilled groceries because I wasn't about to pay for another bag. Apparently a man had seen the whole ordeal and sort of nodded his head in sympathy for me. I just shrugged my shoulders and smiled and waved my hand like "it's no big deal". Here's the best part! He immediately walks up to the cashier and says "sacchetto" (which means bag), pays for a new bag, and gives it to me! Although it was the smallest action, it turned my whole day around. I thanked him endlessly and wish I could have said more but we both just stood in the corner while we waited for our friends. When it was time for him to leave he turned to me and smiled and said Ciao (even though we hadn't been talking) and left. Now that is one of the little things that turned out to be a very big thing! A simple smile goes a long way.

I think I am especially grateful for little things like that after our little weekend rendezvous to Genova. I will be honest, I was less than impressed with the city. It was dirty, people were very aggressive and rude, there were sketchy alleys all over town filled with prostitutes and very obvious drug deals, and finding a meal was nearly impossible. I was sort of kicking myself for spending money on a trip like that but in the end I think I learned a lot from it. I came home to a closet full of clothes and a refrigerator full of food. We miraculously caught the only train back to Milan that day (Italy often has these "organized strikes" for public transportation). We found a lot to laugh at when all any of us wanted to do was crawl up in a little ball on the street. And I don't think I am the only one who had a change of heart after seeing the way the people of Genova live and the poverty that is there. No matter the situation, big or small, you can always find something good out of it.

So next time you are feeling down in the dumps and wondering what on earth you've gotten yourself into, look for something to brighten your day... even if it is the littlest thing.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Oh, the joys of a foreign country

Never take for granted: Towels, electricity, warm water, grocery stores, clean produce, owning a car or an American citizenship.

These are things that have caused me great grief since I moved to Italy.

The first item - towels - has quite a story to accompany it so I will save that for last.

Electricity: I can NEVER get a full charge on my laptop. I don't know if it is the power in my room or what but I have had to use my roommates charger since I have been here and I would really like to be independent please!

Warm water: Supplies enough for a shower and a half. So unless you like a serious wake up call during your morning shower, schedule an oddball time during the day and dedicate it to hygiene (which btw I am a constant sticky mess over here.... hello humidity!)

Grocery stores: For the love... no one speaks English...  and we were given these poor people meal tokens to use in grocery stores (which grocers don't know how to use)... long story short... I ended up having to purchase three 2 liter bottles of water in order to compensate (total scam, whatever) and then having to walk about a mile home with all my groceries plus tons of water. Oh and did I mention my plastic bags nearly ripped and my food almost spilled all over the road? As terrible as this sounds this is one of the stories we tell people and can't stop laughing over.

Clean produce: So my roommate bought a pepper last night and guess what surprise she found in it! Maggots. Yes, we almost puked. I guess they don't regulate imports here so you have to be very careful when picking out produce... YUCK.

Owning a car: We have blown so much money on the metro. We applied for our month pass this morning, but won't receive it for 15-20 more days. (And we even saw the passes sitting on the desk ready for use.... Now I know how the metro makes their money!)
BUT I don't know if I would want to own a car here anyway.... the traffic is bloody mad I tell you. If I come home with a missing limb, this is the reason why.

American citizenship: As residents for over 90 days we had to apply for a permit of stay which is basically just another way of taking 140 euros right out of our pockets.

Last but not least.... let me just tell you how difficult it is to obtain a towel in this city...

Half of our group did not pack a towel (because seriously, who had room in their luggage for that!?) So we took several detours around town before figuring out the only possible store which might sell towels would be good old IKEA. Little did we know as we left, we would trek for 5 hours before finding any towels! To get to IKEA we had to take two different lines on the metro, a train, and walk a 5K. Oh yeah, and the walking part.... on the freeway. No, I am not joking (Sorry mom&dad). Haha how nuts is that?! I am sure we looked like a bunch of orphans walking on the side of the freeway with all our belongings on our backs. It was crazy because we finally figured out which train we had to take because by some miracle we found a lady who could speak partial english (bless her soul) and as we were riding we eventually passed the huge IKEA sign... but the train kept going and going and going before it stopped, all the while we were pleading for it to please let us off! Haha anyways so we start walking back to where we had come from when we realize the only way to get there is to cross the freeway. So we hopped on the road and followed it while cars were zooming past us. A little scary but a crazy story! When we finally got to IKEA we looked through the whole store and to our devastation we did not find any towels. However, we found some very rad teeny baby towels (which I wasn't even mad about haha) until we got to check out and mahalla! There we came across some seriously dingy, but useable towels. This story doesn't even compare with the experience, but I hope you can imagine how my feet felt as I went to bed that night. Take that back... Imagine how my feet feel every night! I am a girl in serious need of a foot massage (and I hate people touching my feet).

Okay so this sounded like a rant, which it partially was, but I want to remember every experience, good and bad! And as bad as some of this stuff was, it has kept us all laughing from day one.

As my motto continues.... "It's all chill because we are in Milan".

Experiencing the missionary life

In my first week here I have had several really cool experiences where I get to share my beliefs with other people. Whether it is just a quick couple clarification questions or deeper, testimony strengthening talks, I've experienced both daily since people found out I am one of those "Mormons".

Less than an hour after I met my roommates, I got my first offer for a glass of wine. I have to say, although I expected people here to drink, it is far more often than I ever thought. But I have been so blessed to be surrounded by people respectful of my beliefs. In reply to the first offer I simply answered "no thanks, I don't drink" and the response was simple "oh, okay!" I was definitely expecting more questions or peer pressure but the first several times I said "I don't drink" people were very chill and respecting. The second night we were out to dinner and "the mormon culture" in Utah was brought up and that's when two of my roommates finally asked if I was a mormon. They asked a few follow up questions then but nothing too serious. It was later the next day when they started asking why some mormons dress so weird (haha this is when I explained garments) and it was later the day after that when someone asked me during dinner why mormons "can't drink". It is so interesting to be in the center of these questions because when one person asks, everybody else stops what they are doing to listen very intently to my answer. I have to say, that kind of close attention is intimidating because I have never experienced explaining why members of the church live the way we do to a group of people so unfamiliar with it. 

It was when somebody asked me to explain "why mormons can't drink" when I felt like I got to experience the life of a full-time missionary. Explaining the Word of Wisdom to people who have never heard the term before is quite difficult, which I never thought it really would be. It's mostly difficult because I don't want to offend them or sound self-righteous or anything of the sort. 

The conversation started in regards to my 20th birthday which was on Saturday. Everyone was saying "The 20th year was so lame, just wait until you turn 21!" And then starting talking about what kind of crazy shenanigans they did on their 21st (Oh yeah, I am the youngest people here btw). All I could really say was "well, turning 21 won't be much different for me considering I don't drink." Because this was one of the first times the topic came up when we weren't busy doing something (we were just eating dinner) the questions started coming, actually hoping for answers. It was really difficult at first (for reasons I mentioned above) to explain and I ended up giving a really dumb explanation that didn't give much information. I totally confused them by saying basically the Word of Wisdom keeps us away from harmful substances and things that are bad for our bodies. One kid was like, "We went and got gelato today... gelato is pretty bad for your body! Why can you eat junk food?" That comment really got me thinking about why the prophet has warned us to stay away from certain substances and even activities!

After the conversation had passed I kept thinking about a better way to answer the question. This is what  came up with: Having free agency is a huge keystone in our purpose of life on earth. Therefore, we want to stay away from things that are addictive. Because when you are addicted to something, that begins to control you, essentially stealing your precious free agency. This is why we stay away from alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, ect!

This answer came to me about an hour after the initial conversation. I really wanted another chance to explain it but I didn't know when I would get one. Not to mention I was having one of those "I have to tell someone or my heart will probably beat right out of my chest" moments. So, as we were waiting for our train I decided to just man up and bring it up. Because if they wanted to know the first time, why would they mind if you brought it up a second time? I simply said, "I have a better explanation for that whole Word of Wisdom concept I was trying to explain earlier if you still want to hear it." Naturally, they said they would love to get a better understanding of it. As scary as it was to bring it up, it ended up being soooo worth it. We ended up talking for like 30 minutes about my beliefs, lifestyle, testimony, how I gained my own testimony, goals, the blessing of the church, missions, ect! It was super cool. And as they asked more questions I was able to reply quickly with gospel doctrine and principles. I could truly feel the spirit guiding me through the conversation. As we kept talking, people kept saying things like " I really commend you  for following what your church has asked without any complaints" and "I really respect you for your beliefs" and "That is really cool how you have so much faith in your religion". I got a taste of what missionaries experience daily and it was so cool to be a part of sharing the truth! I'm not on a mission but I still have the opportunity here to spread what I believe and teach people about the church! 

I know this church is true and I am so grateful to have it in my life. I gained more gratitude for missionaries through this experience. People are dying to know what we believe and we just have to listen to the spirit about what to say and more importantly WHEN to say it. 

My first week in Heaven

I arrived in Milan about 1 week ago and boy how has time already flown by! There is so much that is happened and I don't even know where to begin. Basically Tuesday-Thursday we had orientation (that was not super helpful because the people showing us around either 1) could hardly speak english 2) had suuuuuper thick accents... But whatever). My motto through this experience is "I'm in Italy, so it's chill." Friday we FINALLY got our Italian Cell Phones, hooray! no more lost friends haha. The biggest thing that has made this week awesome is the crew we do EVERYTHING with. Seriously, I am so grateful for the people I have met. Basically we travel around with 12 people at all times. Which makes things take FAR longer than it should haha but it is so worth it! The majority of us are from Boscovich (the building I live in) but we have two other smaller groups from two other apartments tag along with us. I love it. It is so funny because every other student here goes around town with like mayyyybe 2-3 roommates but when you see our crew coming down the street we look like a straight up gang. And I am so thankful I am part of it. Hanging with all these people all the time is always entertaining because none of us are remotely alike... and somehow that works really well for us! We have every personality type and together we have the greatest time! Since I have so much I want to say I am going to split this blog into probably 3 parts... Which means I am going to end this post now. Ciao! Be sure to catch my adventures and stories on this bloggy blog (:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


See this screen? Yeah... I stared at it for 9 straight hours on my flight over to Milan. Watch movies to pass the time? Nope, not me. MY SCREEN WAS BROKEN :( I asked the flight attendant to reset it several times, and whether she did or not I'm not sure (she was awfully sassy- like sheesh do I have to be a hot Italian in order to get some attention?!) Anyways, this is basically my only complaint about the past couple days. But did it ruin my spirits? Nah... Let's just say I got to know myself quite a bit more with all the thinking and staring into the abyss I did to pass the time.....

Some of the cool Boscovich crew on our way to the first party in Milan. Funny story - one of the boys, Brenden (or Brandon haha) speaks Italian and is familiar with the city so he is our saving grace. However, I think we are a major embarrassment to him. Haha whenever we "act American" (aka selfies or foolishness) he walks ahead and pretends he doesn't know us. On the metro we tried talking to him and he just threw up a peace sign and continued looking down. Haha we drive him crazy but we wouldn't survive this city without him. 

Haha so the next 3 pictures... these are signs on the metro... and maybe we just thought it was funny because we hadn't slept in 48 hours or maybe it is truly hilarious because they show all the possible scenarios that could happen to you. (My favorite is one I saw today but didn't take a pic.... the butt gets stuck in the door! Lol like what)

Okay so this isn't the best picture.... but this is our train station! How cool is that. The station itself is art. Soooo lovely,

We haven't gotten our meal plan tokens yet so we have been living VERY scarcely on food. This muffin though... Holy yum. Each blueberry was at least..... 3 times the size of a normal blueberry! (And yes that was a subtle Zoolander reference)

Everything about campus makes my heart skip a beat....

Can't get over the beauty

I love when balconies have plants hanging off. So beautiful!

Haha FUNNY STORY - see that guy on the left? About a half second after I took this pic he grabbed my wrist and tried to put a bracelet on. Knowing he was going to ask for money after I told him no and kept walking. However, he managed to tie it on my wrist. As expected he then asked for money. I told him I didn't have any and continued to walk. He was NOT happy about that. But hey! Don't give me something before asking me dude. 

My friend Erica experienced it with me. Haha so there are our FREE bracelets!

Milan's castle

These little water fountain things are all over the town! Super cool! Just bring a water bottle and fill up with (supposedly) clean, cold water anytime!! 

The lighting in this makes me die a bit inside. loooove it

My cute friend Erica and I! 

Cameron was being a dork with the camera haha but hey he got some good candid laughs out of us!

I only imagine this filled with alligators... or crocodiles... haha 

I did not expect Milan to be so green! The city has the most amazing architecture (and is surprisingly well kept and clean) and then there are little roads on the side that lead to gorgeous surprises like this! 


I'm making this pond my new thinking spot for when things get difficult... If I can find it again... Haha

People just tan everywhere whenever. No kidding Italians have that beautifully bronze skin!

LOL there's another tanner... going spread eagle.

This sandwich.... INCREDIBLE! Ham, spinach and pistachio spread on freshly baked bread! Mmm mmm good

My heart stopped when walked around the corner and saw this. Pictures do not even compare. 

So breathtaking.

So that is my experience thus far in pictures... There are like a million other things I want to write down while they are still fresh in my memory... But my housemates and I are off to get some pizza for dinner! (PS Italians don't eat until like 8 pm... you can't find dinner until that time)

Ciao for now!